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Jewish World Review
Dec. 9, 2005
/ 8 Kislev, 5766
Apple's desktop marvel
Like its predecessors in the past 18 months, the new $1,699, 20-inch
G5 iMac is a single piece computer with the processor, combo DVD/CD
drive and ports placed behind the display. Unlike the earlier units,
this one builds in a Webcam, which can also take still pictures, and
comes with a tiny remote control that'll handle your multimedia
playbacks such as photo slideshows, DVDs, iTunes music, movie trailers
and video Podcasts.
In short, it's all business and yet it's also primed for a fair amount
of fun. But perhaps the greatest thing about the iMac is that it
works, it works without failing, and it keeps working.
My test unit, the $1699 model with the 20-inch display, contained a
2.1GHz PowerPC G5 processor; 512Mbytes of RAM, a 250GB hard drive; the
aforementioned DVD/CD playing/writing "SuperDrive" and the ATI Radeon
X600 XT graphics card, with its own 128Mbytes of video RAM. Plus
speakers, a keyboard and the "Mighty Mouse," reviewed here earlier
this year, and the "Front Row" remote control for all that multimedia
Setup and use was characteristically simple: just plug it in and play.
Sound from the built-in speakers was excellent: if not the exact equal
of a separate audio system, certainly good enough for most situations
and applications. The basic Mac applications were found: Mail.app, the
Safari Web browser, Address Book, iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie and so on.
Also present is "Photo Booth," which plays on the built-in iSight
Web camera to take still pictures in a variety of styles,
including a Warhol-style "pop-art" representation that'll certainly
impress your friends. This strikes me as more of a "living room"
application for the family than something I'd use in an office
setting, but who knows? It is a creative little twist, for sure.
Its presence also highlights the utility, and scariness, of having the
iSight video camera built-in. We're one step closer, perhaps, to the
Jeston-style videophones familiar to cartoon viewers a generation ago,
but with many homes having a broadband connection, along with not a
few offices, the notion of Web-based video chats isn't a bad one. And,
for my money, Apple's iChat AV videoconferencing software is
among the best around. I could imagine both home and office users
making much of the built-in camera (and microphone).
What's not in this iMac - for the first time, I believe - is a dial-up
modem. Apple says this machine is designed for broadband users,
primarily, and that an external modem is available if needed. But are
we a tiny step closer to the end of modems as we know them? Perhaps,
just as we have largely moved from floppy discs to CD- and DVD-ROMs
and USB flash drives.
Despite my personal enthusiasm for this system, there are a couple of flaws.
I'm glad Apple put the ports - USB, Ethernet, FireWire and the like -
towards the bottom right rear of the computer, since it's easier to
hook up items that way. I wish the power button were on the front of
the system as opposed to the rear. And the supplied keyboard would
benefit, greatly, from a longer cord. Ditto the power cord, which is
good but could also use a tad more length.
Overall, however, this is an impressive system worth investigation and
ownership. If the 20-inch unit's price is a hassle, try the $1299
price for a 17-inch model that has just a hair less CPU power, a 160
GB hard disc, and a slightly less-powerful video card - you'll still
be very happy, I believe.
The computers are in Apple's company stores and other retailers around
the country; details are at http://www.apple.com. Or, just look for a
smiling computer user.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2005, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com